Striving

There is so much striving in our world. I am sure this is not so in countries where food and water are not abundant, at least that is what I have heard. I have not had the courage to witness this myself. But, I do know of the striving here in our country. Some would even say I sell striving: work out, eat right, look your best.

This has been the model for years in personal training. As I follow my path, I see how much pain this particular model causes. We few who are blessed with the ability to follow this model, and actually get results, are held up as a standard by which everyone else is judged. And, even more painfully, many judge themselves. The standard of looking good is much too high – in fact, it’s unachievable by its very nature.

Ironically, this very “standard” is what causes so many to fail to be the best they could be. The vicious cycle I see with some of my clients, and we all witness with our friends and family, is to try so hard for so long to do all of the “right” things according to the latest gospel of health, then something happens, or boredom sets in, or life interferes, or a loved one dies, or a holiday rolls around and we get off track, and the pain of failure is experienced again. And around and around we go. Striving for a standard we never even question. Alternatively, and this is very obvious in our culture, the majority have said “{%@k It” and just live an unhealthy lifestyle – and we all pay the consequences.

Instead of striving to be other than what we are, right now, today, what if we could find a place for ourselves in our own hearts?

What if the actions we took regarding our bodies and our lives was from a place of accepting just what is right now?

Rather than striving to some impossible ideal we have for ourselves, what if we could just let ourselves feel the pain of how we have let ourselves down, because we all do, and forgive ourselves?

Then the possibility could be to take some kind, loving action in whichever areas need attention. We try so hard to be all and do all and we lose ourselves in the mix. Find, if just for today, a place for yourself in your heart.

One of the Most Important Questions

One of the most important questions I invite my clients to ask themselves is “where are you not telling the truth?”

Most of us believe ourselves to be honest. We do not steal, we work hard, we do our very best. We compare ourselves to criminals, and because we win that contest, we jump to the conclusion that our slates are clean. But, are they?

We all have our “dirty little secrets.” We all have places in our lives where we really, honestly, are not doing our best. My invitation is to look and see where you are selling yourself short.

I lie to myself every day about how much coffee I drink. I then rationalize this lie by pointing to the research that proves that a reasonable amount of coffee is actually healthy. I hate this about myself, so I deny reality. I drink too much damn coffee. I am afraid of how tired I would be, and the headache I would have if I tried to quit.

I tell myself that if anyone worked as hard as I do, they would need to drink coffee all day too. I point to the number of times I have quit, how hard it was, and to no avail, because I am back on the stuff. I have long, dramatic stories about my struggle that would have you join me in a cup even if you are not a coffee drinker. And there are coffee shops everywhere! I would have to live on an island, alone, if I were to quit. And at least I don’t drink red bull anymore, so that’s good, right?

I used to habitually use cocaine, so I am practically a saint by the fact that now I just drink coffee. All of this talking about my favorite beverage has my mouth watering. What is it that your mouth waters for, and what lies do you tell yourself to perpetuate your addiction?

The truth will set you free. That is the promise.

The challenge is finding the deep truth that you are denying. As I was journaling this morning, which I highly recommend as a way to self-reflect, I went deep into the question of my addiction. I saw something there for myself that I have, up until now, not seen.

As a child, I experienced extreme violence in my home. I had to be constantly vigilant, or I would be in danger. Today, even though I “know” better, I am still, on some level, afraid to relax. It manifests as if my very life depends on my being hyper-aware at all times.

The level of fear that I feel at the thought of not being this way brings me to tears. This is what I do not want to feel. This is my deep, painful truth. This is what I have to be willing to walk myself through if I really want to make a difference in my relationship to myself.

Any addiction is about having an honest relationship with your deepest self. The way in is the way out.

From my experience with other, much more life-threatening addictions, the first step is to tell yourself the truth. Then share this truth with others. There we can find a common bond, a community, a connection with others. This is what life is all about. This is the most basic human longing.

Images

Our brains do not work with words per say, our brains interpret images. We do not recognize words written in another language not because they are not words, but because we were taught to interpret the images from our first language.

The image that we see as “ourselves” is also an interpretation which we were taught by our care takers. The particular interpretation we take on is impacted by countless factors. Our particular genetic wiring, our level of sensitivity, every single interaction with our environment from before we were even born sets in place how our image of ourselves will be formed. We then reinforce these images throughout our lives.

It is vital, if we want to make a significant change in our behavior, to recognize the image we have of ourselves. Without this there can be no permanent change. This is the missing link in weight loss, in quitting smoking, in our general health and self-care.

How is it that you see yourself? This is the most important question you can ask yourself when embarking on any new lifestyle plan. Honestly, how do you see yourself? The image is often not a pretty sight when we are brutally honest. It is sometimes extremely painful to see what we have done to ourselves through neglect, bad habits and downright self-abuse.

This negative self-image then becomes the problem, which is why most people choose not to look at themselves, and just continue to be the victims of this deadly wiring. We love to blame. We say things like “I have no will power” or “I tried and cannot lose weight no matter how many diets I have tried” or “I have bad genetics.” We point to our failures, and then live into them. When we see others who have had success, we wave it off as that they were just lucky. No responsibility is taken or given.

Where do you begin to take responsibility? The answer is to look at your self image honestly, but with compassion. You may ask how is it possible to have compassion for something you detest? Maybe it is not.

But if that is where you are, that is a starting point. See if you can just imagine the possibility of having compassion for yourself; see what that would look like. Imagine holding yourself responsible for your choices and having compassion for how hard that is for you. Then breathe into that. Feel what that feels like. Breathing opens you up to a life. One deep breath rewires your system, and a new image is available out of that.

Judgment never works. Feel how you close down around yourself when you judge. There is no life available there. By judging you, are just reinforcing the old wiring. This locks it in place. If all there is is judgment, as is sometimes the case in people with challenged self-images, just notice that and breathe. See if you can find a positive image of yourself that is true for you and focus on that. See if you can grow that image.

It is most important not to lie to yourself, to make promises to yourself and then break them. Rather, bring consciousness to the truth you feel about yourself by looking at it honestly and with even the smallest amount of love, kindness and compassion. This will slowly begin the process of developing a new image.

Real change does not happen overnight. Real change takes creating, sometimes from nothing, a possibility to live into.

There is no magic pill, but there is magic in creating yourself anew.

From Knowing to Knowingness

By Joann Brickley, Owner, Hydration Health and Fitness

Research has shown that the more knowledge a person has on a subject, the more difficult it can be to apply that knowledge to themselves. Across the board, my clients are well educated, successful and self- reflective. And yet, they have their sticking points when it comes to health and exercise. I do not teach them much that they do not already know (in fact some know much more than I do about how the human body functions). The question is not one of knowing, it is one of knowingness.

What has a person continue to smoke, overeat, not take up exercise or indulge in any number of unhealthy activities? We are the best informed consumers in history and we continue to make the same mistakes over and over. We are the least healthy of any generation in history, despite remarkable health discoveries. Health-related products abound, and yet the majority of our population is, at best, overweight.

People, again very intelligent people, fall for the latest craze, the latest gimmick, the latest magic pill that  will “fix” them. And then, when this fails, they blame the product and claim to have tried, but the product did not work.

What does work is to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep and drink water. It really is that simple. We all know that. You know that. But, what takes you to knowingness? What takes us to the place where we can actually do the right thing consistently?

Knowingness comes from an internal strength. It cannot be purchased form a vendor; it can only be grown with practice. Knowingness is an inside job. It takes being completely responsible for how our behavior, our choices, impact our lives. Knowingness is an acknowledgment of who we really are at the core of our being.  We cannot know ourselves well and deeply if we live from a place of reactivity, responding to each and every whim and fancy.

The problem can be, when we first stop and reflect, we are sometimes horrified to acknowledge our behavior. It can be embarrassing, shaming and painful to see what we do to ourselves. This keeps the negative behavior locked in place. We rationalize, point to all of the reasons why “you would drink, smoke, eat too if you lived in my shoes.” We point to how hard we have to work, so who has the time and energy to exercise? We point to how very hard we “tried.” And then judge the hell out of ourselves for failing. The judging puts the nail in the coffin. The more we “know,” the more harshly we judge.

While I know a tremendous amount about health, I believe the main reason my clients come to me, and stay with me as long as they do, is because I help them access their knowingness, which allows them to take better care of themselves.

Knowingness has no judgment. Knowingness is freedom to choose powerfully from a place beyond our conditions. Knowingness is a deep well inside of ourselves to which we can go back over and over throughout our day to replenish our souls. Knowingness is a breath of fresh air during a moment of stress.  Knowingness is not bound by any rules, or limited to being in a particular place. All there is to do is to take a deep breath and allow it, and there it is, without fail. The wisdom that we all have to make life-giving decisions lives here, right inside of ourselves, and it only takes one deep breath to access. The cost? Being willing to be with ourselves just as we are, and without judgment. One breath at a time.

What Do You Mean, I am the Only Thing that Matters?

My partner, love of my life, web designer and editor, Bill Weil, recently questioned a statement from my last article on commitment. If you have not read it, I invite you to. I would love to hear your response to the idea that you matter more than anything in your life.” You are the only one in your life who matters” does sound selfish, egocentric, maybe even narcissistic. Bill listed his children,  his president, his siblings as examples of people who “matter” as much as he does. Where am I on that list I wondered”!? Lucky for me, and for Bill! his daily actions prove to me that I am on the top of that list. But it took years of working on our relationship for me to feel this way.

You do not need to know the gruesome details of my early years, but I have spent the past 30 years recovering from a less-than-ideal childhood. I look forward to spending the rest of my life continuing my own transformation and inspiring others to live their best lives.

The first lesson I had to learn on my path to emotional, physical and spiritual well-being was that I matter. I was not given that message as a child. From years of working deeply with my clients I know I am not alone in this.

My own children, and my two ex-husbands, will tell you that I went overboard on the idea of “me first.” No doubt. But now I can tell you that I feel very secure in the fact that I matter more than anyone in my life. It is from this knowing that I can take such good care of the people in my life. My clients, my children and my sweetheart all reap the benefits of my having found a balance in this most challenging endeavor.

All day, every day, I take care of people, and I do so happily. It is my job to encourage, inspire and hold my clients accountable. I also feed them, give them water, stretch them, work on them, give them vitamins and have Healing Touch sessions with them. I celebrate their wins and help them to see the opportunity in their failures. One hour I will hold someone while they cry, and the next hour I will scream obscenities at someone for whom a soft touch does not work. I listen, I lift, I lean in and am leaned on.

How could I do any of these tasks well unless I first took care of myself? My day starts with my own self-care. Every day. This is what I teach, and this is what I practice. My self-care might look different than what I encourage others to do, but everyone has different needs, are at different levels and are going for different results.

The point is to look and see what it is that you need to feel well and be well. Then give yourself that gift. You cannot be there for others unless you know how to be there for yourself. It is impossible to give generously, and from your heart, unless you are filled up. Giving from a place of resentment, or “in order to” or as a way of proving to the world that you are a “good” person is not real giving. If you are busy trying to prove you are worthy, you might look to see if you have true self-worth.

Put your own oxygen mask on first, take a very deep breath, fill yourself up so that you can then give and give and give with joy. You are the only one who can give the particular gift you have to give.

Commitment Is a Function of Integrity

As a personal trainer, what I sell is “commitment.”

I also teach people how to lift weights safely and effectively, educate them about posture and healthy food choices and encourage them to drink water rather than soft drinks.

But that is the easy part for me. What is challenging is to find where it is that my clients lack integrity. Because when you lack integrity, it shows up with a lack of commitment. In defense of this, many people would point to all of the commitments they keep. Just the fact that a client walks through my door is proof of a level of commitment, accomplishment and productivity that an untrained eye would find difficult to find faulty.

People would be deeply offended by my questioning their integrity. We think that people who lack integrity are liars and criminals.

What I’m talking about is more insidious than blatant integrity issues. Two examples:

Suppose I tell you I’ll call you this afternoon. Now it’s 8:00 p.m. and I didn’t, either because I didn’t want to, or I forgot, or an emergency occurred (it doesn’t matter WHY, forgetting and emergencies don’t change the fact that I didn’t do what I said I’d do). Even if you’d let me off the hook, part of ME would still have attention on that. When I wake up from my coma, I’m going to remember I said I’d call you and didn’t. It’s going to be in my space.

Suppose you borrow a rake from me at the very end of the fall. Now it’s winter and you still have it. I don’t need it, but every once in a while I wonder if and when you’re going to return it. Meanwhile, every time you pass my rake in your garage you think, “I need to return that to JoAnn.” And these things fester. It starts with, “Oh, he probably just forgot,” and escalates to “I think that’s really inconsiderate” and eventually to, “He’s just a really inconsiderate person.”

No horrible crimes were committed. But in both cases, neither of us are “whole” and “complete.” And rather than being fully present, we’re spending some of our mental energies on these relatively trivial items. And that’s the point.

Moreover, any integrity issue for one person is an integrity issue FOR BOTH PEOPLE! If I’m getting irritable because you didn’t return the rake, that’s me getting irritable at you, rather than me being balanced and whole. So, I can be responsible to myself by handling it with you. By being the one to come to you and asking for my rake back, I’m doing both of us a favor.

And these things add up. The book you didn’t return. The angry words you regret. The messy desk. The time you were kidding but maybe you offended. The unpaid medical bill. The room you’ve been meaning to paint for years. The time you didn’t get acknowledged and resented that. It’s a wonder if we have the ability to be present at all! (Maybe we don’t!)

(The ultimate prescription, not for the faint of heart, is to make a list of every single instance where you have negative energy toward another and then identify what is the integrity issue that’s present, and a date by when you’ll clean it up. There may be 100 or more of them. Then spend the week calling everyone and cleaning it up, apologizing, and getting back into relationship. At the end of that week, you’ll be walking six feet off the ground.)

The truth is that virtually every one of us wrestles with integrity at some level, and many, many people have very low integrity, have little commitment and act like victims. If you find yourself reading this and thinking, “How dare she!” you are probably one of us.

Yes, I count myself among those who struggle with integrity and commitment. And I have spent more years digging deep inside to resolve these issues (mostly successfully!) than I have spent in the gym.

These issues separate the people for whom my program works from those who will go from diet to diet, trainer to trainer and gym to bariatric surgeon with the same results. None! But at least they “tried” and they get to point to all of the things that did not work. Best of all, they get to remain victims.

Integrity is “complete sincerity and honesty, the state of being unimpaired.” “Complete?!” That sounds virtually unattainable. But what would your life look like if you lived from this principle? I can tell you from the times I’ve experienced it in my own life, it is miraculous.

The invitation is to just look and see where it is that you are not telling the truth to yourself and/or others. What happens when you make promises to yourself and to others and then do not follow through? How do you feel when you ignore responsibilities and pretend it doesn’t matter? What message are you sending to yourself and those in your life when you do not show up for appointments or return phone calls? What relationships are unresolved, and, rather than getting into communication, you stay “right” about how you were wronged? Who are you kidding when you tell yourself that living on fast food and spending your evenings in front of the television is the American dream?

Where, deep inside of you, are you telling yourself that you do not matter? Because by doing any of the above, this is the message you are transmitting. My invitation is to live as if you do matter. Even if you do not yet feel like you do.

One day, you will look in the mirror and see that you are the only thing in your life that does matter. Your loved ones will thank you. Your commitment to yourself will enrich the lives of every single person you meet.

Next Time: What I mean by: “You are the only thing in your life that does matter.”

How Toxic is Sugar? NYT Article

The following is cribbed from the NYT. Read the full article.

According to a study in the Feb. 27 issue of the journal PLoS One, it’s not just obesity that can cause diabetes: sugar can cause it, too.

From the article, “Each 150 kilocalories/person/day increase in total calorie availability related to a 0.1 percent rise in diabetes prevalence (not significant), whereas a 150 kilocalories/person/day rise in sugar availability (one 12-ounce can of soft drink) was associated with a 1.1 percent rise in diabetes prevalence.” Thus: for every 12 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverage introduced per person per day into a country’s food system, the rate of diabetes goes up 1 percent.”

and recently

“… a coalition of scientists and health advocates led by the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the F.D.A. to both set safe limits for sugar consumption and acknowledge that added sugars, rather than lingering on the “safe” list, should be declared unsafe at the levels at which they’re typically consumed.”

The point: “By definition, all calories give off the same amount of energy when burned, but your body treats sugar calories differently, and that difference is damaging.”

Mindful Eating – Better than Dieting!

Which would you prefer to do, focus restricting your portions and what you eat, or enjoy whatever food you are eating?  According to a new research study, simply being mindful of what you eat is better than dieting.  Being mindful means to be very present. So you don’t just take that first bite, think “Yum!” and then unconsciously shovel in food until the last bite.  Rather, you would savor the flavor with every bite. You would be conscious of chewing sufficiently.  You would focus on the now, and not “what’s next.”

Read all about it here.

Here is a great 2-minute video on mindfulness.

Gratitude

In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.
– Deitrich Bonhoeffer

Just reminding everyone to stay present to the gifts in your life, take care of your personal fitness and be powerfully with the people around you.

Blessings,
JoAnn

The Ten Universal Spiritual Laws

Edited by Sue Van Doeren

 

I. Law of Love and Brotherhood

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. By opening our hearts to others we find fulfillment and happiness. It begins with seeing how our hearts are closed (where we judge and blame) and granting acceptance to our humanness. Know that we are all one. All are precious. All are deserving of compassion.

 

II. Law of Living in Truth

Face life and the truth of yourself with defenselessness. Face yourself as you are with all your imperfections. Embrace life wholeheartedly without fear, self-pity or consenting to the fear of being hurt. Say to yourself, “In order to become what I would like to be, I must first, without consenting to the fear, shame or vanity within me, face what is in me.”

 

III: Law of Paying the Price

There is a price to be paid for everything. There is a disadvantage to every gratification. The disadvantage must be faced and accepted.

 

IV. Law of Personal Responsibility; Cause and Effect; Karma

Through our own attitudes, beliefs, feelings and behavior we reap what we sow. We create our own reality. We are all given free will. We are free to choose what we wish. We only have to accept the consequences.

 

V. Law of Giving and Receiving

Nature is based on the principle of giving and receiving – the sun, water, soil, growth are all interdependent and rely upon receiving each other’s gifts to survive. We are structured the same way. Where do we try to get more than we want to give? Where do we have too much pride or vanity to receive?

 

VI. Law of Dharma

In living in our purpose, whatever it is that we can do that gives us pleasure and joy – we are honoring the law of Dharma. To not live in our Dharma is uncomfortable at best, and painful at worst.

 

VII. Infinite Reality

We are not alone. There is an infinite reality beyond the personality that is superior, good, infinite, invincible, wordless, beingness that we can gain access to through our self-development and meditation. Our personalities becoming infused with this Reality bit by bit across time – this is what is meant by the evolution of our soul and the evolution of our species.

 

VIII. Law of Transforming Negativity

The strength and the ability of the divine or infinite reality to penetrate the personality structure and shine forth is the degree to which darkness, evil and negativity have been faced in the self and transformed through observation, recognition and acceptance.

 

IX. Law of Abundance

The Universe is abundant. We separate ourselves from this abundance by our limited thinking.

 

X. Law of Attention

What we focus on expands. What we resist (judge) persists.

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